Women’s Adventure Expo were super pleased to catch up with Lucy Shepherd before the end of the year and ask her a few questions about her adventures, and what it’s like to often be the only women on expeditions.
Lucy is a 25 year old female adventurer on a mission, she is constantly pushing herself, whilst at the same time documenting her every move through video, photography and blogging. Lucy is a shining example that the unlikely person can do extraordinary things. Often feeling underestimated, it has become somewhat of a hobby for Lucy to go above and beyond the expectations that people put on her.
Lucy has climbed Denali (Mount McKinley) which is often referred to as the world’s coldest mountain, set out to ski the Norwegian Russian border with her friend Liv and two dogs. Unfortunately Liv became sick, so Lucy set out alone accompanied by one dog, Sno. She has adventured in Iceland, where Iceberg Swimming and Glacier Abseiling were the main components of the expedition, and after going to Argentina with the intention to climb Aconcagua (but not being able to due to off season fees), Lucy headed to the high mountain range of Cordon Del Plata, which is home to numerous 5000m – 6000m peaks. The Patagonia Expedition Race, the GR20 Solo, the Amazon Jungle, crossing the Finnsmarkvidda Plateau in Arctic Winter, and the Heroes of Telemark Expedition, are all among Lucy’s list, plus Arctic Svalbard, where for ten weeks Lucy and her ten team mates lived without any outside contact!
The remarkable list goes on and on, but lets hear what Lucy has to say in her own words about expedition and challenge……
Lucy you have a great strap line “ Don’t lose your botheredness”, can you tell us what’s behind that great line?
Ah, this term keeps me going. In brief, it means that as soon as the thought ‘I can’t be bothered’ enters your head, then you must do whatever you couldn’t be ‘bothered’ to do, immediately. On expeditions, especially cold ones, it’s the trivial things that build up and have catastrophic results and often things could have been avoided had you been bothered that little bit earlier. By doing it immediately it’s like ripping of a plaster. It’s done, you don’t spend energy worrying and you can rest assured you’ve done everything you can.
That’s definitely something we can apply to everyday life and adventure. You have completed an incredible variety of expeditions, from Arctic to Jungle, with many extreme adventures, do you have a favourite and why?
My first and my most recent expeditions are always my favourite. My first because it changed me into the person I am now and gave me the confidence to do exactly what I wanted to do. The most recent being my expedition to Mount Denali. Denali felt like my expedition experience all coming together. We had a small team of four and despite getting stuck in a tent for two weeks solid, it was the most wonderful, beautiful, rewarding expedition. A brutal but magical place.
We are going to hear more from you shortly in another post called the ‘Top Ten Tips for Being the Only Women on Expedition’. You are often the only female on an expedition, how do you feel that?
I really don’t think it should even be a thing. A good team will support every team member and gender shouldn’t come into it. My advice would be only go on a team if you trust everyone’s capabilities and that doesn’t matter if they are male or female. In the expedition environment everyone should be equal, and everyone will have strengths in different areas.
What could the adventure industry do to support more women interested in joining expeditions?
The media and outdoor industry promotional material has a lot to do with it I think. When we think of adventurers, most automatically think of the macho mainstream men that we see in the media. We need more women in our catalogues and on our screens.
I also think it is to do with how we are brought up as children. I remember getting to an age where I had to actively ignore what I felt society was telling me I should and shouldn’t do. For example, climbing trees, boys seem to be able to get away with this a lot longer than girls. At age 12 I was embarrassed that I was so strong. I had insanely good upper body strength because I used to hang around on everything I could find and climb ropes. In sports lessons when the ropes were out, I couldn’t resist climbing them to the top but I’d be embarrassed when I came down because the boys couldn’t do it and for some reason it wasn’t a girly, attractive thing to do. Perhaps this is changing now but more could be done to encourage girls out into the wilderness.
From those memory’s, you have gone a very long way, many people would look at your life and say you have experienced some extraordinary things, how have these amazing experiences come about?
I’m not very good at waiting for things to come my way. If I get an idea in my head I have to start chipping away at it immediately. I get a gut feeling about if an adventure will be worthwhile and after that, it’s full commitment. After my first expeditions as a teenager, I realised I needed them to function 100% in everyday life too so from that point on it’s one goal after another. I’m a firm believer that you create your own luck and if you want something bad enough, you’ll find a way to make it happen, whatever your situation. If you don’t think you know the right people, seek them out. If you don’t think you have the time, change your priorities or have a shorter trip. There are many trusts and organisations that encourage and support adventure, sometimes you just have to find them.
I know you feel a very keen sense of environmental accountability, what are some of the things adventurers can do to lessen the environmental impact of their adventures?
People will argue that us folk who fly to the remote places of the planet are hypocritical because our carbon footprint is large simply as a result of flying. But if we didn’t experience and learn about these places how can we inspire and educate others of the importance of the environment. I think it is less about the adventure but more about lessening your carbon footprint when we are home. Plastic is in the news a lot now which really is creating a movement and proves the power of the media. Ditching the unnecessary plastic will make a difference because the big corporate companies will eventually listen that way. By buying into a greener way of life the governments and industries will have to change their act.
Their is a lot of talk in the outdoor industry about the term ‘Adventurer’. What does being adventurous mean to you and how do you deal with the label ‘an adventurer’?
It’s a cliché name isn’t it. I don’t particularly like it as it is a very general term but I use it with lack of a better word, especially as I don’t just have one expedition niche. I guess we are all adventurers in a sense. Most of us seek out new things. It’s whether we act on them that’s the difference.
Well said, and as we act and go on adventures, how do you keep positive when things get seriously tough?
Preparing mentally for those tough times before the expedition begins is important. When things really get tough, I try to shut off the menacing thoughts before they build up… But if they do, I attempt to think logically, take things step by step and think in the moment, not about how long or hard the day is going to be but what I have to do next in order to move things forward.
What was one of your most surprising challenges and how did you cope with it?
When I took part in the Patagonia Expedition Race in 2016, I had a bike crash and injured myself and as a result my team and I had to pull out of the competition. I found it incredibly hard to be the root cause of why my team couldn’t then continue. It was a failure that was hard to come to terms with and I think that crash will be something I will never forgive myself for.
Personal disappointment is so hard to deal with, on a happier note what are the best things adventure brings out in you?
Goals, confidence, perspective, self-belief, faith in humanity, beauty, rewards, positivity, personal growth, relationships, memories… I could go on!
Can you share with us some of the unexpected feelings and emotions you have experienced on adventures, and how you deal with them?
On Denali, I had to make a difficult decision. There was three out of four of us who went for the summit bid. I had felt fine all morning and was ready to have a strong day and make my way up to the highest point in North America. However, there got to a point on that day where something in my head told me I had to turn around and it wasn’t a good idea to continue. It was a thought I couldn’t ignore, and my climbing partners were shocked when I suddenly stopped and explained I had to descend. After all, I’d been feeling great and climbing strong so why turn around now? My answer? I can’t tell you. All I can say is that I don’t know what my gut was telling me but I’m glad I’m still here to tell the story. The summit will always be there but it doesn’t help the feeling I got when I returned to my tent later on. I had confusing emotions but I tried ever so hard to trust them as I waited for the other two to return. I know I made the right decision but I definitely had a bad case of FOMO (Fear of missing out). The only way to deal with it was to stand by my decision.
With so many different and extraordinary memories, which adventure would you most like to live again?
My first Arctic expedition was a ten-week Svalbard adventure. It had been myself and nine other team mates in the wilderness and we hadn’t seen another soul for the entirety. It was coming to the end of the expedition where we would be collected by boat and taken back to the town, Longyearbyen. The day before we approached the pick-up point, we climbed up a hill and as we reached the top we finally saw the town and there was an overwhelming sense that the trip was ending. It was almost unbearable. Despite that however, it was also exciting. I got the feeling that this was just the start of me being the person I wanted to be and it’s a memory I will treasure forever. In a way, everything came together, and I knew what I wanted for the rest of my life… I was only 18 but still I was right!
Who inspires you and why?
People who do the best that they can do in their chosen field inspire me. It could be people in the arts, sports personalities, business people, academics… Those with a lust for life put their energy onto me and I hope that I’m able to share my enthusiasm for seeking challenges, personal development and extreme environments.
And how about you, what are you most proud of being able to do today that you could not do a few years ago?
I’m better at convincing my friends and family that my next expedition will worth it… That or they’ve stopped listening.
Thank you so much Lucy for talking to us and sharing your adventures, before we go a few last inspiring words… what do you think are the 2 most powerful things a woman can accept about herself?
Trusting herself and her decisions.
Not caring what others think of her, because it simply doesn’t matter if at the end of the day she is happy doing it.
Thank you so much Lucy, we all have so much to take away and think about, I cant wait to reading your ‘Top Ten Tips’ for being the only women on expedition too! Find out more about Lucy, read her blog and watch her diaries on her website HERE.
Lucy’s Top Ten Tips For Being the Only Women on Expedition, will be avalible on the Women’s Adventure Expo website in January 2018.